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CPLH and widening Radio 4's appeal - BBC Trustee David Liddiment on service licences

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Roger Bolton Roger Bolton 17:14, Friday, 11 February 2011

Cost Per Listener Hour table from the BBC Trust.

Editor's note: this week's Feedback focused on the English language, on Royal visits to Ambridge an on the conclusion of the BBC Trust's review of Radio 4 - SB.

There are many incidental pleasures to be derived from the latest BBC Trust Review, a copy of which is now available on its website.

For example, on page 48 it publishes a useful table which shows the cost per listener hour (CPLH) for BBC network radio stations. That isn't the same of course as how much each station costs, and obviously the more listeners there are the cheaper the cost per listener hour.

Still I was intrigued to see that Radio 3 costs over ten times as much CPLH as Radio 1, and around 5 times as much as Radio 4. Surprisingly, (to me anyway), Radio 5 live costs only a little less than twice as much CPLH as Radio 4. The station which has the lowest cost per listener hour is, unsurprisingly, the most popular, Radio 2.

Mind you don't get carried away with the idea that Radio 3 is massively expensive. It still only costs 6.3 pence CPLH.

The Trust, whose proud boast is that it is dedicated to "getting the best out of the BBC for licence fee-payers", published its latest review on Tuesday 8th February, after what it said was a 12-week public consultation.

It considered the overall performance of Radios 3, 4 and 7, had some pungent things to say about what it called the failure of BBC radio's strategy for children, and also backed the management's proposals for accessing past radio programmes.

The press reaction was, shall we say, mixed. I probably don't have to tell you which newspaper published the following headlines over critical articles.

"Oh no! Don't let the dumb down-brigade ruin Radio 4. Its the last bastion of civilised, aspirational broadcasting."

And the Daily Mail also said:

"Radio 4 has 10 million loyal listeners. So what does the BBC think of them? Too many are white, southern, and elderly".

The Trust's review is far more subtle and intelligent than that and addresses real issues that matter to you. It is worth an hour of any BBC listener's time. Shortly after the review's publication I talked to the Trust member who led it, David Liddiment.

He spent most of his TV life working for Granada television in Manchester so is particularly sensitive to the views of those outside the south east. The first excerpt from our Feedback interview is about the Trust's backing of BBC management's desire to widen Radio 4's appeal:

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In a second, and shorter extract, David Liddiment talks about the failure of children's radio to a attract significant numbers of children:

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In next week's Feedback I'll be in Manchester to explore further the BBC's plans to move more programme departments out of London, in particular to nearby Salford. Will listeners notice the difference and do you care where your programmes come from? Do let me know what you think.

Roger Bolton is presenter of Feedback


  • Comment number 1.

    Whether it is Radio 2 or Radio 3 the CPLH is still peanuts. It must also be borne in mind that the number of listeners to Radio 3 increased by 18.2 per cent in 2010. If this rate of increase can be maintained it will not be long before Radio 3's CPLH reduces significantly.

    Full marks to David Liddiment for standing up to the Radio 3 ancients. They marched on the Trust with their flintlocks, but were met square on by a blunderbuss! The truth is that Radio 3 has increased its share of the audience by improving its output and by continuing to broadcast high quality programmes suitable for connoisseurs.

  • Comment number 2.

    As one of the Radio 3 'ancients' who 'marched on the Trust with flintlocks' (was newlach there??), could I point out that 18.2% is not the 'rate of increase' of Radio 3's reach. It represents a recovery from a very poor result in December 2009. Its programmes may be more to newlach's liking, but the recovery is more likely to be the result of massive sums which the BBC has put into marketing Radio 3 on mainstream channels.

    Yes, the Trust has disregarded all the claims that Radio 3 is imitating Classic FM (including from RadiuoCentre, representing Classic FM). Yes, most people do want easy listening from their radio stations. But it is those who want something more demanding who are being underserved by the BBC.

    We made the mistake of praising Radio 3: the Trust has accepted the praise and ignored the criticisms.

  • Comment number 3.

    Given Radio 2 has the lowest CPLH, will that channel become the new model for the World Service?

  • Comment number 4.

    If the BBC were to rearrange all the network stations' schedules (Chris Moyles on Radio 3, Perfomance on 3 becoming Performance on 2), they could have five stations all costing about the same amount of money and each with roughly the same size of audience.

    It would, of course, be a bit annoying for listeners to have to fiddle around trying to find the programmes that they wanted but THE CPLH WOULD BE JUST ABOUT THE SAME FOR ALL THE STATIONS. Is the present situation worse value for money (same cost, same audience) than that?


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